by Maggie Huang
The Gate to Heaven
An Asian woman about my age sat next to me at the airport gate, a little unsure of herself.
"Are you Chinese?" I asked softly in Mandarin.
"Yes... Yes! Oh, I'm glad to find someone who knows Chinese! Am I at the right gate?" she asked, showing me her plane tickets.
Like two sisters, we began to converse in Mandarin. We were about the same height, with the same Chinese last name, and we were boarding the plane to the sam transfer city. She had come from China to help her daughter care for her granddaughter, and now, after six months, she was on her way home. The receptionist at the gate graciously granted our request to change our seats so we could sit together.
Situated in our seats, our conversation picked up, and I asked if she had visited any churches while she was in the U.S. She said she had, but her son-in-law didn't like them. They reminded her of the way Chinese worshiped Chairman Mao—reading his words, singing to him, and gathering in meetings regularly.
Praying for God's guidance to minister to this lady, I explained to her that though Mao claimed to be a savior, Jesus did it all for us. When He died on the cross for our sin against God, He demonstrated His love for us and restored our relationship with God. Through His resurrection, we have the hope of heaven and assurance of eternal life. I told her that each person has free will to choose whether to believe in Jesus and love Him, but He is the Savior for everyone all over the world who trusts in Him.
Wanting to make a contrast with Mao's Red Book, I continued: "The Bible is God's love letter to us. It is His story woven into human life and human history. It is the living Word with divine wisdom to help us face everyday challenges. It builds our faith and hope in Him and draws us closer to Him. It is a portal through which we get to know God."
I managed to finish the comparison before the pilot informed us to prepare for landing. Looking out the window, we both saw a bright ray of sunshine piercing through the clouds, shining right on us. "I saw something like this on my way from China," she said, "like it was a door to heaven opening. What do you think it means?"
Praying silently for God's interpretation, I responded, "I believe it's not a coincidence that we met today. God loves you so much, and He put us together." Looking at her lovingly, I explained that the Bible says that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). I told her that God was offering her eternal life in heaven. Believing in Jesus would be her door to get to the glorious side.
As we exited the plane, her next question showed that she was trying to fathom this loving God: "Does this Jesus really care for us that much? Is the Bible really a love letter from God?" She was in awe when I shared how Jesus cared for me and my family through some really tough times and how we had peace because the Bible assured us of God's love.
I went on to tell her that worshiping in church is not a ritual to win God's favor or complete a duty. The process of singing, praying, and listening to the sermon is to know God more, to understand His Word and His will, and to be touched by His presence. We worship Him out of heartfelt thanksgiving and adoration for who He is to us and what He has done for us.
As we walked along the corridor, suddenly this new friend broke into tears. Before I knew it, she was pouring out all the struggles and resentment hidden in her heart about her relationship with her daughter and son-in-law. I found a place where we could sit away from the noisy crowd and listened to her story.
Wanting to point her to Christ, I offered her the hope I had in my heart: "You know, as much as I am willing, my help for you will have to end here in a little while. But if you believe in Jesus, He will be your best friend to help you forever."
"YES! I want to believe in Jesus and accept Him as my Savior!" she exclaimed. "I want to go through Him to the glorious Heaven!" I led her in the sinner's prayer of surrender and gave her a big hug, welcoming her into the family of God. I assured her that she was a daughter of the King, and as His princess, she could go to Him for His favor anytime, anywhere.
To my utter joy, she exclaimed in her almost perfect English, "I never feel this way in my life. I feel a heavy burden lift off me!" Waves of thanksgiving and joy lit up her face, and she looked much younger than when I first sat by her.
Then I reminded her of the door to heaven she had seen in the sky and assured her, "You have entered that door. Jesus will help you learn how to walk with Him and be blessed."
"How do I walk with Jesus?" she eagerly asked.
The airport monitor was telling me I had to run to find my gate. Quickly situating my new friend at the gate of her destination, I prayed for God to grant her a safe trip, wisdom to solve the issues with her family, and growth in the Lord. Then I gave her one last big goodbye hug, telling her to get a Chinese Bible, find a Christian group in her hometown, join a Bible study so she would grow in faith, and pray to Jesus anytime to know His love and to give her worries to Him. Then we friended each other on social media so we could stay connected.
"Thank you, Lord!" I prayed. "Thank you for allowing me to be your vessel of honor to tell this lady about You. Be with her, Lord."
I was still waving goodbye to this sister in Christ as the sky train moved towards my gate, taking me to my next destination.
Meeting Grandpa Ho
Just before the 15-hour flight to Hong Kong took off, I gave up my seat to sit beside an 82-year-old Chinese man. Introducing myself as Maggie, I was told I could call him Grandpa Ho. We quickly became fast friends. Upon hearing him express resentment toward everything and everyone in the world, I was moved with compassion for him and prayed silently that he could experience God's love in a tangible way.
When Grandpa Ho learned that I was a Christian, he explained that two of his daughters were Christians, and they wanted him to convert, but in no way would he ever put faith in pastors. He said that years ago in Taiwan he used to go to church, and the pastor had taken advantage of him.
Not wanting to delve into the details of his story, I just said, "I'm sorry, Grandpa Ho. There certainly are some bad apples everywhere. But I've worked in different churches over the years, and I've met many wonderful people from pastors to church members. As a matter of fact, my husband is an associate pastor. He's not perfect, but he's a godly man who depends on God and who loves me and our children very much. We trust in God to satisfy all our needs."
"Oh, so sorry, Maggie. My statement, 'All pastors are crooks,' was not fair to you and your husband. There are good ministers after all, for I've observed you throughout this trip. You've taken good care of me and the lady next to you too. You've been very patient, kind, and respectful."
I responded in kind, thanking Grandpa Ho for taking care of me throughout the trip, while silently thanking the Lord for the safe trip as the plane was descending.
"I learn from you," Grandpa Ho said with a loving smile. Then he added, "I know the reason we've had a safe trip today. It's the blessing of you."
I smiled and shook my head, "No, Grandpa Ho, it is God's protection, not mine."
"Right! It is the blessing of your God," he corrected.
I looked into his eyes and made an appeal: "He could be YOUR God, too!" Then I expressed my regret that he had been hindered from believing in Jesus by what a pastor had done. But I explained that being a Christian is about having a personal relationship with Jesus and really has nothing to do with anyone else. Because we all have weaknesses is the very reason we all need Jesus. "God loves you, Grandpa Ho, and you can become His child by trusting in Jesus."
Before we landed, I handed him a Christian magazine which was filled with testimonies of how Chinese people around the world have found Jesus and how He has helped them through many different situations. From his silence, I knew he was pondering my words.
Parting, I gave Grandpa Ho a big hug and silently prayed for his salvation. I waved at him with a caring smile and said, "Goodbye, and God be with you, Grandpa."
"Goodbye, Maggie, God be with you, too." He waved back at me, with a loving smile.
"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…" (1 Peter 3:15).
"So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).